Political partisanship and mobility restriction during the COVID-19 pandemic

D. Hsiehchen, M. Espinoza, P. Slovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objectives: Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are effective in curbing the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. All US states have adopted NPI policies, but the compliance to these measures and influence of sociopolitical factors on NPI adherence is unknown. NPI adherence may be approximated by personal mobility in a population that is tracked by anonymous mobile phone data. Study design: This is a cross-sectional study of state-level mobility changes across the US. Methods: State-level mobility was based on anonymous mobile phone data from multiple participating carriers collected by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (http://www.healthdata.org). Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to examine the strength and direction of the relationship between political affiliations and mobility restriction across states. Multivariable linear regression analyses were used to assess other factors that may impact personal travel. Results: All states experienced a decline in personal mobility but had varying nadirs ranging from a 34% to a 69% reduction in mobility, which was not temporally related to the timing of state-level NPI measures. There was a statistically significant linear and negative correlation (r = −0.79) between the proportion of Republicans/leaning Republicans and NPI adherence across US states. The negative association between Republicans and NPI adherence was significant even when adjusting for urbanization, proportion of essential workers, population, Gini index, and poverty rates. Conclusions: Political orientation affects risk perception, which may contribute to the unwillingness of some individuals to perceive the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic as a risk and to comply with NPIs. Our results highlight the importance of sociopolitical factors in disease control and emphasize the importance of bipartisan efforts in fighting the pandemic. These results may have implications for the development, dissemination, and communication of public health policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-114
Number of pages4
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Compliance
  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions
  • Partisanship
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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